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The gentleman who answered the door wore a severe black suit that proclaimed him to be a butler. He had a full head of salt and pepper hair, particularly gray around the temples and penetrating brown eyes currently aimed at Kakyou and the little suitcase in his hands.

"Yes, may I help you?" the butler asked. He had a deep voice that seemed to rumble up from within his chest cavity.

Kakyou tightened his grip on the case and answered, "I'm here to be young Mr. Fujimiya's new valet."

The butler's features rearranged themselves in an expression of surprise. "Then why on Earth have you come to the front door?"

Kakyou was spared from responding by the sudden appearance of a redhead young man who stepped up behind him. The man's hunting reds were almost the same shade as hair and like his hair was discolored with grass, mud, and blood. "No doubt Aya told him to do just that. Don't let it trouble you, Carson. I take complete responsibility for him from now on." With that, the young man took Kakyou's arm in a firm and intimate hold, and without breaking stride, marched up the stairs.

Kakyou's eyes widened briefly but he hurried along with the other man well enough to keep from stumbling. He murmured a quiet apology as they moved away from the butler.

"Kuzuki Kakyou-san desu ka?" Ran asked quietly. He glanced at Kakyou, looking into the golden eyes.

"Hai," Kakyou replied, nodding slightly. He met Ran's gaze, though there was a hint of pink to his cheeks.

"Good," Ran said in English. "I'd hate to think I was dragging about the wrong person." The reached the top of the stairs. "Turn just here." Kakyou had little choice but to turn as Ran kept his hold.

"Carson-san was nihongo o hanashimasu. Hoka no shiyonin wa nihongo o hanasemasen.* At least, I think." Ran switched between English and Japanese with no apparent difficulty. His English had no accent -- at least none alien to English soil.

* Mr. Carson speaks Japanese. The other employees do not speak Japanese.

"I believe I am seeing the family resemblance," Kakyou said in a faintly bemused tone. He switched between languages as easily as Ran did.

Ran looked perplexed for a moment. Then he stopped and finally let go of Kakyou's arm. A faint blush painted his cheeks. "Ah. Please excuse me. Fujimiya Ran desu." He gave a shallow bow. "Haijmemashita. Dozo yoroshiku."

"It wasn't meant as a complaint," Kakyou assured him, returning the bow. "Hajimemashita. Dozo yoroshiku."

Ran smiled small but did not try to take hold of Kakyou's arm again. He nodded his head toward the door at the end of the hall. "My room is at the end of the hall." Ran started toward it.

A maid with golden hair beneath her cap stopped to look at them. She curtsied before hurrying on.

Kakyou bowed his head to her politely as he followed Ran down to the indicated room. He held his small case tightly and tried to look calm.

Ran stopped in front of the door, waiting for Kakyou to open it.

It only took him a moment to figure that out, and he stepped forward to open the door, holding it for Ran.

Ran smiled again and nodded his head approvingly toward Kakyou as he entered. "Close it behind you."

"Of course, sir," Kakyou replied, following him in and closing the door.

"Aya has told me about your circumstances. I'm happy to help, but I intend to make you earn your wages. If you can abide that, you are welcome to stay," Ran said without preliminary.

"I wouldn't expect anything else," Kakyou replied. "If I'm here passing as your valet, I should be doing the job."

"Good." Ran nodded in approval. "Remove my clothes."

Kakyou blushed faintly but set down his case and stepped in to start taking Ran's clothes off, starting with his upper body.

Ran looked straight ahead, unconcerned.

Kakyou folded the pieces neatly as he set them aside. He knelt down to remove Ran's boots, pulling them off one at a time with a small huff of air.

Ran lifted his feet obligingly as each boot was removed. He watched Kakyou with open concern.

Kakyou blinked in confusion at the concerned expression, glancing up at Ran questioningly. He hesitated briefly before he started to remove Ran's pants.

"Think of it like going to the hot springs," Ran suggested. "We're both men, so it's alright."

Kakyou had never gotten to go to the hot springs, but he didn't say that. He just nodded with a tiny smile and went on removing the rest of Ran's clothes.

Ran stopped Kakyou when Ran was in his underpants. "That's enough. Please draw a bath." Ran had strong, athletic legs.

Kakyou noticed, and did his best to ignore. "Alright." He stepped past Ran to the bathing room and began to draw the bath. "Would you prefer warm or hot?"

"Warm, but almost hot," Ran replied. He followed Kakyou into the bathroom. "How do you like your bath?"

"It depends," Kakyou told him as he adjusted the water. "If it's summer or I've been very active, just warm. The rest of the time I like it fairly hot. I take a chill easily."

"See that Mrs. Hughes arranges for you to have extra bedding on my say so," Ran replied, watching Kakyou.

Kakyou flushed faintly and smiled, putting the plug in the drain. "Thank you."

Ran tried his best to sound confident and grown up. "It's important that we look out for one another. Apart from you being my sister's friend, we're going to be living in each other's pockets. Better that we get along, don't you think?"

"That's true. Things would probably become difficult to bear very quickly if we disliked each other," Kakyou agreed, dipping his fingers into the water in the tub to make sure the tub hadn't leached too much heat out of it.

"I hope you like me then," Ran replied. He tried to pass it off as joke, but there was something wistful in his tone. He felt awkward standing around half dressed, so he dropped his shorts and stepped in to the bath.

Kakyou heard it, and he was already opening his mouth when Ran finished stripping. His cheeks went pink, but he said "I think we're doing well so far."

"Good," Ran replied as he eased himself into the water. "My father and Bates -- his valet -- are good friends, I think. Father trusts him. I'd like it if we could be like that."

"That would be nice," Kakyou said softly, his turn to sound a touch wistful. "There hasn't been much of that in my life." He let the tub finish filling before reaching to turn the water off.

"I'm sorry," Ran replied. He watched Kakyou for a moment.

"You don't need to be," Kakyou said, offering Ran a small smile. "You're helping me."

"I'm employing you," Ran replied dryly. He leaned forward in the bath. "The soap is just there. I think there is a wash cloth on the counter." Ran made no attempt to reach for the soap, though it was clearly within his reach.

"Helpfully," Kakyou said, lips tight in a way that was clearly meant to keep them from turning upwards. Wait, what? ....Was he supposed to wash Ran? He could barely look at him without blushing! Kakyou obediently fetched the washcloth, though, dipping it in the water before reaching for the soap.

Ran smile and leaned forward a little more to make himself easier to reach. "You're helping me too. My last valet … well, he and I were not well-suited. You gave me good reason to let him go."

"So everyone gets something?" Kakyou's touch was careful and ginger as he ran the soapy cloth over Ran's skin, faintly uncertain.

"I would hope." Ran laughed and took hold of Kakyou's hand, pressing harder. "You don't have to touch me as if I'm a delicate maiden. I'm a man." He playfully flicked water at Kakyou. "You'll have to scrub harder if you want to get me clean."

Kakyou made a face and firmed his touch, scrubbing at the sweat and dirt. "I'm not used to this."

"I know. You look so clean, I almost feel bad for having you touch me when I'm dirty." Ran's teasing look was similar to Aya's. "Almost."

Kakyou gave a small, amused huff and flicked soap bubbles at him.

Ran laughed, closing his eyes when the soap bubbles came close to his face. He felt distinctly tempted to blow soap bubbles in Kakyou's face, but decided that was unfair. He sank back against the tub, content and happy. "Ah. Aya wished for me to remind you that the servants are welcome to borrow from the family library -- so you can tell her I did."

"I will, assuming she doesn't find me buried in it first," Kakyou replied with a pleased hum. He went on with the job of getting Ran clean, hesitating when the job started getting low on Ran's body.

Ran saw the hesitation and was torn between teasing Kakyou and trying to ease the tension.

Kakyou bypassed the worst of the awkwardness for the moment by moving down to scrub Ran's legs, starting with his feet.

Ran's feet were strong and lean, like the rest of them. He used his foot to flick water at Kakyou. "I don't expect you to touch it." Ran had no apparent compunction about Kakyou seeing his body. He was tilted in such a way that Kakyou could easily see Ran's cock in the soapy water should Kakyou deign to look.

Kakyou was putting in a certain amount of effort to NOT look, and he blushed brightly at Ran's words even as he nodded gratefully. "Is the splashing going to be usual? Because if so, I'm going to be taking my own shirt off in future."

Ran forgot himself and grinned for a moment. "You make it difficult not to tease you." He reached out his arm. "Here. I can finish."

"It's far from deliberate," Kakyou replied with a small almost-pout. He gave Ran the washcloth without a moment's hesitation.

Ran began scrubbing his foot. He pretended to be so focused on that that he could not watch Kakyou, but he was looking at Kakyou out of the corner of his eye. "I was talking about my foot, of course. I'm not sure if you were thinking something else."

Kakyou scowled and reached into the tub again to splash him.

Ran laughed out loud as the water soaked him. "Would you be so kind as to set out my clothes?" The formality of the request was made comical by the humor Ran could not keep out of his tone and the grin on his lips.

Kakyou crinkled his nose at Ran but his tone was perfect prim politeness as he said "Of course, sir." He dried his hand off and stepped away to find clothes to set out for Ran.

After about ten minutes, Kakyou would be able to hear the bath draining and Ran calling, "I'm ready for my towel."

"Where would your towel be, then?" Kakyou called back, leaning the clothes laid out on the bed.

"On the linen rack in here." Ran was not sure whether or not to be bemused by the impertinence.

Kakyou slipped back into the other room and found the towel, pulling it off the rack and unfolding it before holding it out.

Ran stood on the bathmat. He reached to take the towel from Kakyou, deciding against asking Kakyou to dry him. "Thank you. Would I be right to assume you have never dressed another man before?"

"You would," Kakyou replied, keeping his eyes on Ran's face.

"It's intimate," Ran said. He put the towel around his waist. "There has to be a certain amount of trust." He smiled in a way meant to encourage. "So I think I am grateful you are the man dressing me." He did not allow Kakyou an opportunity to respond before beginning the instruction. "There is talc on the counter there. Put some inside the underclothes and hand them to me. I'll put them on myself. Next the trousers. I'll do those as well, but you must make certain that they have set properly before you fasten them."

Just as well; Kakyou wasn't sure how to respond to that. He hadn't dealt with enough people that were, well, emotionally available to him, to really know how to handle it. So he listened to the instructions and went about following them, giving Ran a shy half-smile as he handed him the underwear.

Ran chatted as he dressed. "You know, when my sister first told me she made friends with an older boy, I was concerned."

"Really?" Kakyou said, a touch confused. He knelt down to make sure Ran's pants were on properly before fastening them and getting his shirt.

"Undershirt first. Yes, and now that I've seen you, I'm even more concerned."

Kakyou picked up the undershirt and helped him put it on. "I don't understand. I wouldn't do anything to hurt Aya."

"You're beautiful!" Ran exclaimed laughingly as he pulled his undershirt down.

Kakyou blushed again and held out the shirt, already open. "I don't see what that has to do with anything."

Ran held out his arms to help Kakyou put the shirt on. He raised an eyebrow questioningly. "Honestly?"

"Yes...." Kakyou said slowly, tugging the shirt into place and starting to fasten the buttons.

Ran smiled as he explained, "Well, when an impressionable young girl meets an angelically beautiful man, older brothers start to worry."

His voice was sweet and slightly teasing.

Kakyou huffed at the teasing tone and made a small derisive sound at the words. "She drags me along in her wake without thinking twice. If anyone is the impressionable one here, I don't think it's her."


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